In a perfect world, you’d be able to walk your dog yourself several times a day. Unfortunately, your job, health, or other commitments may not always let you do so. Almost anyone can walk a dog, but how do you choose a good dog walker you can trust?
What To Look For In A Dog Walker
You wouldn’t let just anybody watch your kids, and the same goes for your dog. There are several qualities to look for in a dog walker to make sure your dog has the safest, most enjoyable walks possible when you’re not around.
Here are some things to consider when you’re interviewing potential dog walkers. Ask yourself these questions about the walker you’re interviewing … so you find the best walker for your dog.
1. Is He An Animal Lover?
There’s a big difference between someone looking to make some money and someone who truly enjoys spending time with dogs. Before hiring someone to walk your dog, introduce the potential walker to your dog and observe how they interact. Watch the walker’s body language with your dog … and pay attention to how your dog reacts to him too.
It’s easy to spot a true dog lover versus someone who merely tolerates dogs. You want your furry friend to walk with someone who cares for her. Being a dog lover should be the number one qualification!
2. What’s His Background Or Experience?
A dog walker may love dogs but not have a dog himself. You should make sure your walker has some hands-on experience. He’ll need an understanding of dog body language and behavior. He should know how to distinguish fear or aggression from excitement or relaxation … not just in your dog but in others they may meet while out on a walk.
This is something you may take for granted because you know how to read your dog so well … but it’s an essential skill for a dog walker. Your walker should also use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.
3. Can He Physically Handle Your Dog?
A dog walker must have the confidence and ability to walk your dog.
You need to find someone comfortable with the breed and size of your dog. You also need to consider how well trained your dog is. So, If your large dog pulls when he sees another animal, you want to be sure the dog walker is strong enough to prevent your dog from bolting.
4. How Long Will He Walk Your Dog?
Most standard dog walks are about 20-30 minutes … and sometimes that includes the dog walker’s time picking up and dropping off your dog. Ask a potential walker how long he’ll walk your dog. If your dog is high energy and needs a much longer walk, you need to find someone who’s willing and able to match her activity level.
5. Is He Reliable?
A dog walker should be punctual and responsible. Note how promptly he communicates with you, and whether he’s on time for your first meeting. Ask for references and contact several other clients to ask about their experience.
You should lay out your expectations and then see how well he follows instructions during a trial period. For example, if you’d like him to update you after the walk, see if he remembers to do so in the first couple of days.
6. Will He Walk Your Dog Alone Or With Others?
This is an important question and can be a deal-breaker. Some walkers meet up with other dog walkers, and others walk more than one dog at a time … sometimes as many as 4-5 dogs at once! This is especially common in cities. The more dogs one walker has to handle, the higher the chance of distraction, lost dogs, and conflict between the dogs. If you want your dog walked alone so she has individual attention, make this very clear upfront.
If you’re OK with your dog joining in walks with other dogs, make sure your walker has the skill to keep the dogs under control and safe.
7. What If The Weather’s Bad?
Ask the walker what he’ll do in bad weather. Obviously you don’t want your dog out in a tornado or lightning storm … but rain or snow shouldn’t keep her home. Very hot weather may be a problem for senior or thick-coated dogs. Your walker should recognize the signs of overheating so your dog doesn’t get heat exhaustion.
8. Does He Live Nearby And Know Your Area?
A dog walker who lives close by is more likely to be on time and able to walk your dog on short notice when your schedule changes. He’ll also be more familiar with local walking routes to give your dog the most enjoyable walk possible. Some dogs like to vary their routes and others prefer covering the same territory every day. Let him know your dog’s preferences
Your walker should follow the rules for dogs in your area and follow them. In most cases, you’ll want your walker to keep your dog on leash, even in a local park or off-leash area. And of course, they must always pick up poop and throw the bags in outdoor trash.
9. Does He Ask Questions About Possible Emergencies?
When the walker asks questions about emergency situations. it shows he’s experienced and can anticipate potential problems.
Make sure your walker has your vet’s contact information and will get your dog emergency veterinary care if something goes wrong during a walk. If a walker doesn’t ask any questions about this, it may be a sign of inexperience.
A dog walker should also ask you about any problem behaviors your dog has … for example, is she leash-reactive or does she like snatching garbage snacks on the street? Or perhaps she doesn’t like the dog who lives next door.
10. Does Your Dog Like Him?
Ultimately, your dog needs to decide whether she likes her walker. Having a meet and greet before hiring is a good way to observe how well they click. One good test is to let him take your dog out for a short walk while you’re at home … if she leaves willingly with him while you stay in the house, that’s a good sign.
11. Is He Licensed And Insured?
Check the laws where you live because dog walker licensing requirements vary. A professional dog walker (even a sole proprietor) should have a business license and carry liability insurance in case of mishaps. Some larger companies with employees are also bonded … meaning you’re protected from theft by their employees. This is especially important if you hire a pet sitter to stay in your home while you’re away.
How Much Does Dog Walking Cost?
The cost a dog walker varies a lot … the average rate for a 20-30 minute walk in the US is about $20 … but can be anywhere from $10 to $35, depending on several factors. Some things that affect pricing are:
- Where you live – big city, small town or rural.
- How many dogs you have – two dogs may not be double the rate, but there’ll be an additional cost.
- Length and frequency of your dog’s walks.
- Days of the week – weekdays will usually cost less than weekends or holidays.
- Level of training and experience of the dog walker – expect to pay more for a really skilled walker.
Before you interview dog walkers, ask around locally to find out typical rates where you live.
How to Find a Dog Walker in your Area
Now that you know how to choose a good dog walker, where do you find one? Here are a few ideas:
Ask Your Friends And Neighbors
The best way to find reliable services of any kind is through first-hand recommendations. Ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues if they have a great dog walker who’s taking on new clients. Other dog owners at your local park or off-leash area are also good people to ask.
Check Local Service Websites
It’s best to use local service websites to look for a dog walker or pet sitter. Some of the big national pet care service platforms may not be able to verify the quality of their walkers. There are some anecdotes about problems with some of their referrals. If you use a national site, always ask for local references for the walker.
Ask Local Pet Professionals
Ask your veterinary clinic, groomer or small pet store. These businesses may know good dog walkers … or sometimes a veterinary technician, groomer or store employee might offer dog walking or pet sitting services. Vet techs can be a great choice for in-home pet sitting while you travel, because they’ll know how to handle medical emergencies.
Ask Your Community
There are several ways to get the word out that you’re looking for a dog walker. Again, it’s best to do this locally. Ask for recommendations in neighborhood social media groups. Or sometimes, the old-fashioned way is the best … post a flier in a local coffee shop or small business.
It’s hard not to worry when you trust someone else with your dog’s care. But these tips should help you find a kind, reliable and skilled dog walker to make you and your dog happy!